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Diego Luna Alexander (born December 29, 1979 in Toluca, Mexico) is a Mexican actor, producer, and director.

Luna is known for his childhood telenovela work, activism, and supporting roles in American films like Milk, Elysium, and The Terminal. He also starred in Y tu mamá también with Gael García Bernal, his childhood best friend and fellow actor, which brought both him and Bernal international attention and launched their careers outside Latin America, and voiced lead character Manolo Sanchez in the film The Book of Life.

In 2016, he starred in Star Wars anthology film Rogue One as Captain Cassian Andor, re-catapulting him back into international attention.

His parents are Alejandro Luna, a respected theatrical set designer in Mexico, and Fiona Alexander, a Scottish/English expat who worked as a costume designer until her death in a car accident when Diego was a toddler. Alejandro started taking young Diego to work with him at the theatre, which eventually led to Diego taking his first acting role at age six in the theatre play his father had been working on, and the rest is history.

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In addition to his acting career, Luna is also a social justice activist for Mexican immigrants and citizens and has spoken out against the current corruption of the Mexican government. The documentary that he directed on famed labour leader Cesar Chavez was shown at a special screening at the U.S. White House.

He and Gael García Bernal co-founded Canana Films, an independent film company. They also partnered in founding Ambulante A.C., an organisation that works to bring documentary films to places where they are rarely shown.

He is not related to Gabriel Luna.


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Selected filmography:


Tropes:

  • Bilingual Bonus: Often in interviews, whether he's dropping Mexican slang ("¡No mames!"), or cursing, or saying something prefaced with, "Can I say it in Spanish?" On occasion, he even gets away with swearing in Spanish uncensored.
    • On a 2018 appearance on The Late Late Show, Reggie Watts asked the guests a long question about nonexistent productions they've dreamed about being in and were disappointed to not actually be in. After being granted permission to answer in Spanish, he cheerfully replied, "No entendí tu pregunta ni madres," which means, "I don't fucking understand your question."
    • But this was subverted in a previous interview with Conan O'Brien to promote ''Elysium''.
      Conan O'Brien: "Please, I'm sure you didn’t say that. I'm sure you said something much more appropriate for television."
      Diego: "Can I say it in Spanish?"
      Conan: "Sure, you can say it in Spanish."
      Diego: "Can I say [bleep] in Spanish?"
      Conan: "Yeah. He's allowed to swear in Spanish, right? Go to town! (to producer off to the side) What do you mean 'no'? Why not?! [...] You don't know what he said!"
      Producer (able to be lip-read): "I know what that meant."
  • Casting Gag: He has played Zoe Saldana's love interest in The Terminal, The Book of Life and Maya and the Three.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Most of his directorial work focuses on the relationships between parents and children, especially fathers and sons, mirroring his own upbringing by a single father. He's admitted in the past that he tends to use acting and directing as (sometimes very expensive) therapy.
  • Dawson Casting: A few notable examples. He was in his twenties when he played 16 year old Button in Open Range and 36 when he starred in Rogue One where his character was officially 26 years old (but that's Star Wars time for you). It does have the effect of making Cassian Andor look realistically hardened and weary from his lifetime of service to the Rebellion. The age difference is only going to be even more pronounced in the spinoff series Andor, which takes place five years prior to Rogue One, when Cassian is 21, and began shooting when Luna was 41, nearly twice his character's age.
  • Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: His natural charisma, striking good looks, and friendly countenance have been cited in multiple productions as a motivator for hiring him for morally ambiguous and even villainous roles. In the 2004 film Criminal, Luna plays a fledgling con-man and is told in-universe by his mentor that he "looks like a nice guy". Much later, Gareth Edwards said that "you just want to be his mate", which is important for a role where Luna's character represents the dirty side of Star Wars's normally unambiguously heroic Rebel Alliance. And then in Narcos: Mexico, where his character is not only villainous but borders on Ax-Crazy at times, showrunner Eric Newman had this to say:
    With Gallardo, just as with, more Pablo [Escobar] than the Cali [Cartel] guys, we needed to humanize him. When Diego Luna is your actor, you're halfway there. You have a guy that is just so endearing, great and empathetic. [...] But in terms of how we construct the character, we were hoping, I think we'd pulled it off, you'll be the judge, by the time you realize that he's a sociopath, an approximation of a human being, you've already been falling in love with him.
  • Magnum Opus Dissonance: There's no single work that he considers his greatest, but he jokingly expresses a similar sentiment towards his appearance in Katy Perry's music video for "The One That Got Away". He noticed that that video has gotten more views than all of his film and television work from his 30+ year career combined, so he jokes that when he dies, people are going to be like, "Oh, that guy from Katy Perry's music video's dead."
  • Method Acting: In a small, very specific way- whenever he has to smoke on camera, he insists on using real cigarettes, not herbals (read: tobacco and nicotine-free). He insists that he can tell when an actor is smoking an herbal cigarette because, he says, they don't give you a "hit" and so the actor takes excessively long drags on it. (Also, he says, herbals taste terrible, like a salad set on fire.) And so, for authenticity, he smokes real cigarettes onscreen, which sometimes bites him if there are a lot of scenes where he's smoking, like in Narcos: Mexico, where he burned up at least a pack a day due to his character either smoking or lighting up in almost every scene.
  • Old Shame: His telenovela work while he was growing up and a lot of his early English-language work seem like this to him, but he especially hates talking about Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights because he finds his attempts at dancing in that movie embarrassingly bad compared to the dancing he witnessed in Puerto Rico while doing research for his role. He remembers being relieved at first that it flopped in theatres and hoped it would be forgotten, only for it to do really, really well on home video and TV reruns. As a result of that movie, he says, he is too embarrassed to dance even when he wants to.
    Luna: "I didn't want to ask, because I asked Harmony Korine once, and he said, 'Havana Nights!' And I go like, 'aw, no, what? What?!' [...] I was expecting Y tu mamá también, or some, you know, weird Mexican film no one watched, but, no, he went for that one. So, uh... now I don't ask that."
  • "Sesame Street" Cred: At least in Latin America- he appeared on Plaza Sésamo demonstrating emotions with Elmo.
  • So My Kids Can Watch: Having a project that he can share with his son and daughter was his main motivator for doing The Book of Life and Tales of Arcadia, the latter of which his kids were already a fan of, and a happy side-effect of doing a Star Wars movie. He mentioned that when his kids each saw Rogue One for the first time, they thought he was the coolest dad ever for roughly an hour and 45 minutes until his death in the climax. In particular, his son looked at him with mingled dismay and disgust, but later came back around when Diego's daughter got to the ending and wailed "What are you doing?!", to which her older brother shushed her with, "this is a good way to die. It's called sacrifice."
  • Star-Making Role: Y tu mamá también landed both him and Gael García Bernal international acclaim- then-19-year-old Luna had been known mostly as a teen heartthrob at time and Bernal had to talk the director into hiring him. Rogue One, however, is when he started getting bigger roles and leads in major American productions.
  • Those Two Actors: With Gael García Bernal; they have known each other practically since birth. After both did Mexican telenovela work as children, co-starring in the film Y tu mamá también brought them to international attention and they later went on to co-found Canana Films and Ambulante A.C. Each continues to describe the other as their best friend and, fandom being what it is, there is more than one tribute to their Bromance out there on the internet [1] [2] [3].
  • What Could Have Been: As early as 2017, he'd been tapped to play Tony Montana in an eventual reboot of Scarface (1983), complete with Al Pacino's blessing, but Luna would later state in early 2020 that he'd left the project.

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